Sunday, May 31, 2015

roller in the coaster and shine in the sun

This is Lily. She loves life more than anyone I know, never misses an opportunity to jump in a muddy puddle, obsesses over animals, (particularly dogs) and is always up for a dance party. She wakes up happy every single day; her eyes open and her sweet smile is never far behind.

She also has Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. Up until now it has not had a discernible effect on her life beyond having to take blood pressure medication daily.

She is a treasure.

 One day, Lily sent this video to her favorite musician, Justin Roberts.

And then this happened:

And then this:
And this:
And every single other song on her list happened, too. This also happened:
I think the THANK YOU is pretty clear.

As terrified as we all for what might happen when my niece Lily was born and transported via life-flight helicopter to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital on October 12, 2009, the last five years have been fairly uneventful in terms of her health. Despite her diagnosis with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) in utero Lily has developed normally, and blossomed into a vibrant, loving, hilarious, and compassionate human being with a zest for life that is unmatched. This child wakes up happy, excited for even the most mundane details of the day ahead. She is just an absolute joy. To know her is to love her, truly.

Lily LOVES Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. She has always seemed to hear and experience music and lyrics on a different level than other kids, and has developed a very specific connection with Justin Roberts. We had been counting down to his concert at Kenyon for MONTHS when the results of Lily's yearly MRI came back. After so many years of "see you in 6 months" we never expected her nephrologist to say she needed surgery. For a moment it wasn't even clear that she'd even get to go to Ohio at all. Thankfully, her nephrologist cleared her to fly and surgery was scheduled the week after the concert. The entire trip took on a poignancy that was, at times, painful.

I am so lucky to count Justin Roberts, Liam Davis, and Gerald Dowd friends, and when I let them know about Lily's situation, Justin immediately asked what her favorite songs were. I am so grateful to Justin, Liam, and Gerald for making Lily feel recognized, seen, and loved. I took as much video of the concert as my iPhone would hold, knowing how precious the memories would be, even as I tried to stay present as they were happening.

And so sweet Lily is having surgery this week. Two of the cysts in her right kidney are dangerously large, and have to be drained. Because of her medical situation, after surgery the only pain medication she is permitted to have is Tylenol. She will begin a course of treatment upon recovering from the surgery that has potentially nasty side-effects, in order to (hopefully) suppress the growth of both new and existing kidney cysts.

It's hard for me to wrap my mind around what is ahead. It's heart-breaking and terrifying and unfair and overwhelming. Lily is too young to fully understand what is happening, but she is very scared.

Because people have asked, I thought I would go ahead and offer a mailing address for Lily this week. If you'd like to send something her way (she is heading to Memphis on Monday, surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, and they expect to be there until Saturday) you can do so via the following address:

Lillian Solise
c/o FedEx Family House
918 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee  38105

"...the road up ahead might be a rocky one but we'll get it done, then we'll roller in the coaster and shine in the sun."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


For the first time in four years I am serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, making everything from scratch, and I couldn’t be more excited. Maybe it's a testament to the benefit of taking a break from tradition. For years I have told just about anyone who would listen that Thanksgiving is the most overrated holiday meal of the year; over-hyped, anti-climactic, and chock full of boring, heavy, bland food. The last time I prepared a full traditional dinner I really tried to prove myself wrong, driving all the way to Nashville to buy an over-priced free-range, organic, local, Ph.D holding turkey from Whole Foods and the equally over-priced William-Sonoma brining bags and brine mix everyone on the Internet was swearing by. I made picture perfect red potatoes, cut in half with a full sage leaf carefully pressed into the fleshy skin before roasting. And of course all of the other usual suspects were on the table. It was good. I’m sure some people would have called it great. But I was unimpressed. It was a shit-load of work (especially that whole wet-brine deal) for very little pay off. I couldn't tell a differnce in the turkey from any other Thanksgiving turkey I'd ever had or made. The next year, having decided to put my own culinary energy into a Christmas feast (which I will ALWAYS, always, ALWAYS do, no matter what I do on Thanksgiving, see exhibt A here), I catered Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods, and hit a deer on the highway on my way back home from picking it up on the night before Thanksgiving. The turkey and I both survived the terrifying wreck, but my beloved Honda did not. I think that soured me even more on Thanksgiving, and for the next two years I wouldn’t touch a turkey with a 10-foot pole. We made our own sushi feast one year, complete with the most beautiful sushi-grade tuna you’ve ever seen, and did a Thai extravaganza the next year, with fresh rolls meticulously crafted by hand, fish curry, and ice-cream on top of sweet sticky rice. Happy Thanksgiving to the Lowbridge-Solise family!
Not our Thanskgiving sushi feast from 2011, but a sushi feast nonetheless.
Now it has been four years since I last wrestled with a turkey (and reminisced about the one and only fight my parents had each and every year, or at least the one and only fight we were privy to. We'd hear them from our bedrooms before the sun was up arguing about how to clean and prepare the turkey), and I’m ready to give it the old college try again, and prove to myself that a traditional Thanksgiving dinner can be thrilling, delicious, and worth every last bit of hype thrown at it. The challenge? I’m also staying local for all ingredients (no trips to the Fresh Market in Evansville or the Whole Foods in Nashville – if I can’t find it at Walmart, Kroger, or Marketplace in Madisonville, Kentucky, it isn’t gonna be on the table), and keeping the budget under $200 from start to finish. I’m dry-brining a 20 pound bird this year (it’s all the rage in the foodie world, I’m told) using my own combination of the LA Food Section’s Zuni Café inspired method, and a garlic-herb rub from Bon Appetit (minus the salt & sugar) for the last 8 hours when the birds sits uncovered in the fridge, plus the good-old herbed butter under the skin technique I mastered back in 2009 (if you’ve never had your entire forearm underneath the skin on a turkey, you haven’t lived). There will be mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, there will be sweet potato biscuits and cornbread stuffing (I made the cornbread this morning), and, a tip of the hat to my mother: a traditional French’s green bean casserole (but I’m frying my own onions, doncha know). We’ll have the creamy-Dijon braised Brussels sprouts I made for an after-Thanksgiving dinner party last year, and a new cranberry technique – an uncooked relish with lime and bourbon. My sister is making a pecan pie, complete with her signature gluten-free pie crust that you’d never guess was gluten-free. Don’t tell my sister (I already had to convince her we NEEDED the green bean casserole), but I’m thinking that we’d be remiss not to have a pumpkin pie on the table, and I am probably going to burn the midnight oil making one tonight. I don’t even like pumpkin pie (or any pie for that matter – shhh, I KNOW) but now that I’m in the zone it seems silly to leave it (and the iconic can of Redi-Whip) out. I’m truly hopeful that this meal is going to blow my mind, and that I’ll be joining the chorus of die-hard Thanksgiving fans who sing the praises of this meal so beautifully. It really might – a lot of these are tried-and-true recipes we’ve used for non-Thanksgiving dinner parties that I already know I love. I think it’s really going to come down to the turkey, and based on my research, the dry-brine thing is a winner. Cross your fingers, and let me know what kind of Thanksgiving you are having this year!

Beer and wine: assortment. I like Pinot Noir with turkey, but I’ll have some white on hand, too.

Pecan pie
Pumpkin pie (maybe)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Eggs.

I have four very specific, early memories of eating eggs. All are from when I was four or five years old. I remember eating fried eggs at the dining room table at 1073 Allston Road in Cleveland Hts., Ohio with my dad. The eggs were fried the way my dad would later teach me to fry eggs: in a pan of hot fat (butter, oil, or on special occasions- BACON FAT) on med-low heat. When the whites are mostly cooked, tip the pan carefully so that you can spoon the hot fat over the egg until a nice film forms over the yolk. My dad served the perfectly fried eggs with "soldiers" - a piece of toast cut into half-inch strips, perfect for dipping in the runny yolk. But I so vividly remember that on that same morning he also taught me that if you ever were without bread, the proportion of white to yolk was just right to dip your bites of the white INTO the yolk and never have a bite of one without the other. He had me eat one of my fried eggs with the toast "soldiers" and the second practicing taking the right amount of white and yolk together to eat the egg just right. In retrospect, his upbringing in post-war England is strikingly obvious, but at the time I truly learned it as a lesson - we were lucky to have bread. Perhaps most children of fathers born in the UK in the 1940s learned to count their blessings in a similar fashion. Brilliant parenting, if you ask me.

My second memory is my dad making me soft-boiled eggs and serving them in egg cups, while simultaneously introducing me to great literature, religious warfare, and satire by using it as an opportunity to discuss Gulliver's Travels, big-endians, and little-endians. "But that's so silly," I probably would have said when he explained that deciding a right and wrong end from which to crack open your soft-boiled egg (by tapping it demurely with a knife, of course) was reason for a divide between people. "That's the bloody point," he probably would have said.

I learned the upside of differing opinions via this third memory: my cousin Pam, 3.5 years my elder and the person I looked up to and loved more than just about anyone in the whole wide world, to whom I'd later pen long hand-written letters during my teenage years and save quarters to call from the pay phone outside of Dublin High School, with whom I'd share a real "Best Friends" split-heart necklace eventually, my cousin Pam and I were sitting against the wall in my playroom at Allston Road, each with our own hard-boiled egg. "I don't like the yolks," Pam said. "I don't like the whites!" I responded, gleefully. The answer was clear. Two yolks for me, two whites for Pam, and we could get back to playing the imaginary world we had decided upon together and were functioning in quite happily until my mom interrupted us with this annoying thing called lunch. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Dinner with a Side of Emotions, 2012

The toast I meant to give last night, for Christmas dinner: 

"Life can be hard.
Life can be challenging.
Life is also precarious.
And ultimately fleeting.

Life is also be full of beauty, and wonder, and grace, and love. And it is up to us to witness it... or not.

So as we sit down to this meal together again - after a year of ups and downs (like most years, I'd say),
I simply ask that you make the choice to be here, now. To be present to each bite, each laugh, each moment. To try just for a short while to let go of everything else - stress, anxiety, worry - and to be here, and experience this meal and the joy of each others company. The beauty is here- right here, right now. The least we can do is try to be here, too.

Cheers to right NOW! To good food, great wine, and family! Let's eat!"

This is the toast I gave last night, for Christmas dinner:

Life can be....oh my fucking GOD, I'm going to cry! Shit. Shit. I'm crying. Okay, okay, okay (my 3-year old niece, Lily, is having a meltdown stage left and screaming) -oh, come here Lily, give this toast with me... (picking Lily up, now holding Lily AND a glass of champagne)....
Okay, so life can be hard. But life is also full of.... (cry, clear throat, sniff, sniff)... so you guys know life is hard, duh, okay - I'm sorry, am I being too emotional? Oh my GOD.. okay, so I wanted to quote Annie Dillard - to paraphrase her - that beauty and grace are performed whether we will or sense them - the least we can do is try to be there - (sniff...) I just really love you guys, so here's to being here, you I love you all.... (tears....Now I sit down awkwardly with Lily in my lap, who proceeds to have another meltdown, weeping "where MY dinner....")

Geez. Christmas making me all nostalgic and grateful and emotional and shit. Whoa. =)

2012 Menu 
Sunday, December 23, 4pm

Cocktail hour (4-6pm)
  • Candy cane cocktail (vanilla vodka, white chocolate liquor, peppermint schnapps) 
  • Cheese board
  • Olives
  • Linda McCartney's Green Herb dip with crudités

Appetizer (6pm)
  • Confit of pork belly (form Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home)
  • Broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes (Ad Hoc at Home)
  • Champagne
Impromptu Cocktail hour to buy time because Hilary the POTATOES messes up the timing (7-8pm) 
  • Scotch or bourbon over smoked ice (Bruce made the ice from Bon Appetit you can read about here!)

Main Course (8pm)
The roast BEFORE going in the oven...
  • Standing rib roast (4 ribs/10 pounds). *Salted, left uncovered in refrigerator overnight. Brought to room temperature for two hours, cooked low and slow at 200 degrees for about 4.5 hours to a perfect medium rare - about 125 degrees. Rested 1.5 hours. Blasted at 500 degrees for 10 minutes before carving for perfect golden, salty crispy crust. I don't feel like I can take credit for how well this roast turned out. It was the best I think we've ever had, and I think it was because the meat from Fresh Market was really high quality.
  • Horseradish cream (Ad Hoc at Home) *This was SO much better than the sour cream version I usually make. It's so worth it to seek out the Sherry vinegar and whip it up yourself. Best new addition (other than pork belly, of course!)
  • Yorkshire pudding *This was my first year making it gluten free and even the non-gluten free folks liked it better than last year!
  • Mashed potatoes (Pioneer Woman) *If you make these the night before just note that they take longer to heat through than she says,even if you do bring them to room temperature for 3 hours - word to the wise! This threw my timing off big time. We were supposed to eat at 7pm. Luckily the combination of the pork belly to start and Bruce distracting everyone with his magical smoked ice saved the day!
  • Brussels sprouts two ways: whole roasted (Ina Garten) and shredded sauteed with pecans and cranberries (Alton Brown)
  • Caramelized creamed pearl onions (Tyler Florence)
  • Sweet potato biscuits with marshmallows (Smitten Kitchen) *Also gluten free, and also an enormous hit with the non-gluten free folks!
  • Carrots
  • Wine (I chose a cabernet sauvignon to pair with the meat) or beer (my dad is allergic to wine!).
After Dinner Drink (10pm)
  • Glogg with almonds and raisins *a gift from Christi's mom, Tina, who was with us last year! We missed you!
Dessert (11pm)

  • Flourless chocolate cake with ice cream and raspberries
  • Coffee

Yes, this was an EVENT, to be sure. Exhausting. Thrilling. Relatively successful. I think my mom would have been proud. =)


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Color is GREEN!

In my continual online perusal of all things yoga related, I happened across something on Yogaanonymous the other day that has me lusting for backbends, excitedly making plans to make all those juicy (terrifying) heart-openers the focus of my practice again.

I went through a big backbending revolution at the beginning of 2011 and even took a workshop with the iconic Kathryn Budig in early April. I was determined to open myself up to life, to love, to connection, to other people... and then I started to feel too open, too vulnerable, and that fall I quickly retreated to the safety of my beloved forward-folds. The place I'm most comfortable: with myself.

Can you be an extroverted introvert? Or like...a closet introvert? I think I am both. I'm vivacious in social situations - bubbly, overly-enthusiastic, loud (LOUD!!! I'm REALLY loud. Seriously. It's embarrassing) and full of energy, but I actually feel the most comfortable and the most safe when I'm ALL. BY. MYSELF. Answering only to me. Completely alone. If I wasn't such a wuss about nature (I know, I KNOW), and if I didn't have such an aversion to camping, I think I could go into the woods for a weekend alone, no problem. In fact, right now, I think it would be heaven to check into one of those lake lodge rooms and spend the weekend outside. (Avoiding all ticks, bugs, snakes, etc. of course). I'd take a yoga mat, a journal, a few bottles of wine and a good bottle of scotch, comfortable clothes and LOTS of blankets. Turn my phone off. Leave the computer at home. Disappear for a bit. Oy, that sounds FABULOUS.

BUT RIGHT. The point is I need to open my heart again - be more open to the world and the people in it - so I'm TRYING. I joined an online book club my friend Emily invited to me and I even sent an EMAIL with some thoughts about the book and tried not to worry too much if the people on the other end of the email would think I was TOTALLY NOT SMART AT ALL!!! (This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. I LOVVVVED it). And I'm reaching out to friends and trying to say yes more than I say no. (I resent Josh Radnor a little bit for putting cutie-yet-smoldering-Zac Efron in my brain telling me "Fortune never smiles on those who say no" all god damned day, every day. JESUS, little Zac Efron, LEAVE ME ALONE! He also tells me to "BE LOVE!" too, but that one I don't resent as much).

Oh! So the thing from Yoganonymous was in an article is called "Yoga Research: Five Proven Facts That Make Yoga Awesome" by Ashley Josephine:

This may be the biggest breakthrough of all for practical application and yoga language. There are 12 pairs of nerves in the brain that control motor and sensory function, but one of those nerve pairs is extra special—it takes on double duty and controls both at the same time. It starts from the brain and moves down either side of the neck connecting first at the heart.
Called the vagus nerve, or wandering nerve, this little guy connects with every major organ in the body. The nervous system works by being stimulated through chemical and electrochemical stimulation, but also responds to mechanical stimulation. Thus, when you do a heart opening posture, you’re mechanically stimulating the vagus nerve. When you take a deep breath into the kidneys, you’re mechanically stimulating the vagus nerve. And when you pull your leg into your chest, you’re mechanically stimulating that wondrous nerve.
When this nerve is stimulated, signals are sent to the organs to control function. For example, research now proves that yoga can increase your variable heart rate, which leads to overall greater health. Rather than expecting your heart rate to beat at exactly the same intervals, it is optimal for some variability to occur between each beat (we’re talking thousandths of a second here).
It makes sense when you think about it. If your heart beats with the same amount of time in between each pump, you’ve conditioned your body to perform in a very specific state all the time. What happens when you enter into a new state? You freak out. But, if there is some variability, you’ve actually conditioned your body to respond to a variety of different situations. In other words, you’re able to deal with whatever comes at you. That is why when we backbend and breathe deeply, we stimulate the vagus nerve, which sends signals to the heart to increase variability (motor function).
Okee DOKEE. Got it. For someone who has been having weird bouts of hypochondria and anxiety and even had a few panic attacks this calendar year, finding out that I can condition my body to NOT FREAK OUT in a variety of different situations and deal with whatever comes at me is really compelling. Where do I sign up? Oh, right. That YOGA THING I signed up for, unknowingly, when I was 18 and bought Patricia Walden's Yoga for Beginngers VHS (yes, children - VHS) tape.

So my sadhana this week is going to focused on backbending, the heart chakra, and the color GREEN. Wait, who remembers the seed sound for the heart chakra and can tell me! (Oh, how I can reminisce about Devarshi's amazing circle sadhana during YTT with all of that chanting!!! Sooooo amazing! I wish my students wouldn't freak out if I started om-ing up a storm every single class).

And if you take class with me this week, you'll probably see a little more backbending than I normally teach. I got a message in a yoga nidra cloud* a few weeks ago that told me to "do something different" (luckily I hadn't seen Liberal Arts at this point, or my cloud would have been a he's-too-damn-young-to-be-so-strangely-attractive Zac Efron telling me "fortune never smiles on those who say no" - seriously. IT WON'T STOP!) and I've been trying:
  • I got my nose pierced. WHAT A REBEL.
  • I've made some dietary changes; namely cutting all grains out of my diet except for a little bit of quinoa. For me this basically means exchanging gluten-free bread and pasta for starchy veg like sweet potatoes and squash. I've also cut out cow's dairy and only occasionally have goat's or sheep's milk dairy. It's sort of a paleo-ish-but-OBVIOUSLY-I'm-not-giving-up-wine-and-chocolate/gluten-free hybrid sorta thing. And once a week I cheat, like - FRENCH FRIES cheat).
  • I've made exercise changes by increasing the intensity of my intervals and adding back non-yoga strength training.
So the next change: backbends. Practice and teach more of them. I do think that I skimp on the backbends in my classes for selfish reasons and I need to challenge myself there. One of my most regular students (she literally comes to a minimum of seven of my classes a week) asked me to teach yoga mudra because she hates yoga mudra. I ALSO HATE YOGA MUDRA. My shoulders don't like to cooperate with yoga mudra. I feel slightly embarrassed that I'm the teacher and I prefer to use a strap. I know that should be a good thing - reality yogi and all of that - but...BLARGH. It's sort of the same with backbends. So yeah - this week. Backbends and Yoga Mudra. Totes awesome. (I'm glad I ordered myself a sampler pack of Nikki's Coconut Butter the other day. I'll use it as a reward for going out of my comfort zone this week. Someone call Geneen Roth about my use of food as reward. Yes, I've read all of her books. No, I'm not changing my mind about the coconut butter, thankyouverymuch).

Who wants to open their heart with me this week? The only requirement is one dance party to Open Your Heart by Madonna, and then you're in the Hilary's Heart-Opening Club. Send me a video of your dance party and you get a PRIZE! I'm going to try to remember to post some links to practices that will help people open their heart at home, and also document a few of the classes that I teach to be used as home practices. I have no idea if anyone has ever done the sequences I post on my blog (see above: Reality Yogi Sequences) but just in case. =)


*I had a friend once get really excited about my zodiac situation (triple-Pisces) and then apologize by saying "sorry I got all woo-woo on you." I had never heard that term, but I liked it. And four years later, I am apparently the "woo-woo" one, because I just typed something about a message from a yoga nidra cloud with complete sincerity. ;)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Food: Eating to Live, Living a Life that FEELS GOOD.

I haven't ever talked about going gluten-free on my blog. I felt almost ashamed, like I was jumping on board one more ridiculous fad diet (no, really, let's have coffee and talk about my 20s. I've done them ALL). But now that I've been wheat/gluten free for almost seven months, with no real intention of ever going back, I'm ready to talk about it. Just in case you were on the market for ramblings from your favorite reality-yogi. :) To be continued- for now a placeholder to upload some photos!
seared tuna steak with white and black sesame seeds.
lunch at my desk: salad of massaged kale dressed with lemon and olive oil, leftover asparagus, zucchini, squash and filet mignon, raw almonds. some people add mayo to anything and call it a salad - i think a salad is anything i can mix up in bowl all together and eat with a spoon. ;)
google the health benefits of coconut oil. i guarantee you'll soon buy some.
my morning smoothies make me feel confident that if nothing else, i'm getting a huge hit of nutrients and plenty of fruits and leafy green veg at least once a day. i usually throw between six and eight fruits and veges (always starting with kale and/or collards and blending with coconut water) into my friend the ninja and drink it up.
roasted pork loin (high quality meat) with roasted apples in a mustard glaze, carrots roasted in coconut oil, kale and collards sauteed in grapeseed oil with garlic. this is a plate of leftovers. you should have seen in the night of. YUM.
you can't beat the wine flight at the crowded house. three four-ounce pours for seven dollars and change. i kid you not.
Add caption
this is the new machine at the gym. i'm fairly certain that it is an accident waiting to happen for me. i have visions of tripping down the stairs and face planting. i think i'll stick with the machines closer to the ground. =)
my girl, christi.
multi-tasking! kale and collards- some for the smoothie, some for making braised greens ahead of time for dinner that night.
you have to have fun. girl's night.
you are not going to BELEIVE THIS CAKE. rhian gets all of the credit for finding the recipe. it's grain free, soy free, dairy/casein free, gluten free....and it is probably the best flourless chocolate cake i've EVER HAD. you won't believe it.
i actually took this pic to show my girl, molly, that i still wear the scarf she gave to me almost three years ago when i was visiting her in southern california. that trip was where my dream of becoming a yoga teacher took shape. as a side-note, i got my nose pierced a week ago and only one person in my day to day life, outside of my immediate family, noticed. Huh??? It just looks that natural? Or is it so horrifying everyone is ignoring it?? ;)